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Panama To Benefit From EU Crackdown On Offshore Tax Havens

Mar 20, 2008
It reads like an espionage tale from Len Deighton. Government conspiracy, illegal payments for stolen information and statements by royalty outwardly rebuking foreign powers. I am talking, of course, about the Liechtenstein bank scandal which has rocked the offshore tax havens that neighbor the European Union and could cause an outflow of billions to the more distant tax havens in the Caribbean and countries such as Panama and Guatemala.

It has been no secret for some time now that the member countries of the European Union have not been happy with their smaller neighbors such as Monaco, Liechtenstein, Andorra and Switzerland, who have happily provided favorable laws for wealthy individuals wishing to avoid punitive tax rates in their countries of residence. The E.U. has slowly tightened the noose of regulation with its Anti Money Laundering Directives and made it clear that they would like to see the end of the tax havens so they could reclaim the millions lost in tax revenue.

The recent events surrounding the Germans and the Liechtenstein Bank owned by the ruling royal family is more a symptom of this squeeze and reflects the lengths that some governments will go to to achieve its goals. It is alleged that the German government paid an employee of the Liechtenstein bank, L.G.T., a sum of money, believed to be in excess of six million Euros, for a CD containing confidential account holder information. The German government denies any illegal wrong-doing, but for many the writing is on the wall if governments will stoop to such under handed tactics to gain an advantage.

This, of course, is good news for countries such as Panama, who by contrast are still passing laws to tighten individual privacy and attract the very investors that are being shaken by events in the European tax shelters. Panama, who have a long history of tax shelter business, held more offshore companies on their company register than all the other Caribbean tax shelters combined in the early 1970s. Their business was dented through the 1980s due to politic unrest under 'the Noriega years'. It was unfortunate that at the same time the BVI, British Virgen Islands also launched their International Business Companies Act (1984)(IBC), which, for a time led to an exodus of some of Panamas companies.

Through the 90s, the country has enjoyed a sustained period of political stability and has embraced itself as one of the leading providers of offshore company accounts and second passports. Its privacy laws are some of the tightest in the world and it is claimed that with the ability to with-hold access to the Panama canal, no country would attempt the kind of underhand tactics that befell the principality of Liechtenstein. Besides, it was the proximity to Liechtenstein, bordering the Germans, openly allowing German citizens to cross the border to open accounts, that it is primarily believed to be the reason for the Germans actions.

Whatever the motives, the Ecofin meeting held recently by E.U. members finance ministers, will result in nothing positive for the tax havens of the European region. This can only mean that the worlds wealthy will, more and more, be looking west to countries like Panama to accommodate their needs.
About the Author
Panama Legal are a Panamanian based law firm that specialize in second passports and offshore company formation. Panama Legal can guide you through the legal procedures. Read finance articles at OMDN
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